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Guzman has 1 big goal

May 21, 2017 GMT

Fernando Guzman, a Coosa High School senior and self-described five-time cancer survivor, has one thing on his mind in the lead-up to Friday’s graduation: “I better walk across that stage.”

“Right now I’m working on my prosthetic, trying to walk across that stage, and that is the only thing I’m thinking about,” said Guzman, who had his left leg and arm amputated in his ongoing battle with the disease with which he was diagnosed in 2011.

Guzman is coming off a rough week, as he has cancer in his left lung after having it in his right lung, but is not undergoing treatment. “I decided that I did not want to fight anymore, and currently I’m just letting my life be handled by the Lord,” he said. “I’m just living life, as they call it.”

The latest news of the cancer’s spread came in February 2016, and Guzman admits being worried at first since he was only given four to six months to live, but those feelings subsided with time. “As you can see, 15 months later I’m still here, so I stopped worrying about that. It used to get me down ... but now it doesn’t, now I really don’t reflect on that.”

But even with the periodic downturns in health, Guzman said, “If you saw me you’d be amazed.”

Times have understandably been challenging for Guzman from middle school and into high school, but he has done his best to enjoy all that comes with being a student.

“It’s been a very rough ... teenage life for me, but I’ve managed to maneuver myself around and have fun just as if I were still a teenager,” he said.

One of those fun moments included getting to hang out with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart and Ellen DeGeneres. It was a wish of Guzman’s to meet them, and with the help of social media and community members, word got out, and he and a group of friends traveled to Los Angeles last year.

At one point, Hart took Guzman’s phone and said, “If you’re going to do a Snapchat, let me show you how to do it right,” and the two posed for a snap.

A common thread through Guzman’s cancer fight has been his resilience against letting the bombardment of medical issues get him down, and the Coosa community has played a big part in that.

“They just won’t let me give up,” he said. “It is impossible to show up one day and say, ‘I am depressed,’ because they will find a way to make you happy.”

Even though he missed a lot of school — he had to make up credits by completing online classes — Guzman always found a way to enter back into the school environment in a big way, he said.

“I would show up probably when nobody expected me, probably during a big football game, a big soccer game, a big basketball game,” he said, adding that he loves sports, specifically Coosa athletics. “I would also be the loudest person there.”

As part of the support for Guzman, a benefit soccer game between faculty and students is held in his name and raises money for the Fernando Scholarship Fund. The game was played for its second year in March, and Guzman said it’s a tradition he knows will continue.

In regards to graduating, Guzman said, “It feels amazing, but then again it also feels like I’m leaving behind a big part of my life.”

He said he wouldn’t be poised to graduate had it not been for God and the guidance of teachers Lila Culberson, Charman Putnam, Sherry Agan and Elizabeth Wade. Also, he said his girlfriend Carly Comer has been his “backbone,” supporting him through it all.

Guzman plans to go to Georgia Highlands College for his core classes, and aims to get into the medical field, with a focus on cancer.

Coosa High’s graduation is Friday at the Forum River Center, starting at 7 p.m. And when Guzman makes it across the stage to get his diploma, he’ll have the community he credits so much to with him every step of the way.